This course will examine the dramaturgy of William Shakespeare, beginning early in his career with Richard III and ending with The Tempest. Lectures will pair each play with a larger set of questions meant to submerge Shakespeare's works within their cultural, and intellectual, surrounds. Thus, Romeo and Juliet will be read in relation to the early modern period's fascination with the Neoplatonic theory of love, while Henry V will be assessed in light of relevant political theories of absolutism. Other topics with which we will engage will include the Renaissance concept of the patriarchal family (King Lear), anti-Semitism and cruelty (The Merchant of Venice), Renaissance gender theory (Twelfth Night), philosophical skepticism (Hamlet), and the period's obsession with social class (Coriolanus). More broadly, we will also explore what constitutes the generic differences between Shakespearean comedies, tragedies, and histories.
In an attempt to appreciate the interpretive possibilities opened up by Shakespearean drama, we will also view scenes from modern, cinematic adaptations of the plays we read. Sections will be devoted to close-reading exercises and to the consideration of any number of thematic and interpretive issues not touched upon in lecture.
Only one book will be required: The Norton Shakespeare: Second Edition.
Two papers will be assigned, each between 5 and 7 pages in length (and each worth 20% of your final grade). There will also be a midterm exam (20%) and a final, take-home exam (25%). The occasional quiz, consistent class attendance, and participation in your section's discussions, combined with additional, short assignments devised by your GSI, will together make up the remaining 15% of your final grade. Please remember to always bring your book both to lecture and to section.
Any and all sophomores, juniors, and seniors interested in Shakespeare's writings.
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